Non-fiction Workshops

Lou Cannon –
Explanatory Journalism

Broadly defined, Explanatory Journalism embraces the traditional analytical and investigative journalism common to newspapers (and such sophisticated television programs as 60 Minutes) and the more specialized writing that prevails in magazines. It also includes the journalism practiced on the better websites. The same principles that distinguish good print journalism apply with equal force to good journalism on the Internet. These principles are fairness, accuracy, clear writing and an ability to analyze that goes beyond conventional wisdom. The web pulls journalism in two directions. On the one hand it gives us unlimited space. On the other hand, readers of the Twitter generation tend to have short attention spans and multiple distractions. So how do you explain something complicated in a tight span that informs while keeping reader interest? That’s the challenge. Using explanatory journalism as our framework, we will address the basic issues of writing and reporting. Which issues are most in need of—and most susceptible – to explanation? How do we decide whom to interview and on which experts to rely? How do we fact-check, separating sources on the Internet that are impartial and informed from those that aren’t? How do we write accessibly? The answers to these questions are basically the same whether we’re writing for newspapers, magazines, or the web. Participants will be encouraged to bring recent work for critique and feedback.Lou Cannon worked 26 years on the national staff of The Washington Post, where he won many awards and was often described as a “reporter’s reporter” by his colleagues. Subsequently, he was a contributing editor and then chief executive officer of California Journal, an acclaimed non-partisan magazine that was published from 1970 to 2005. He is now editorial adviser to State Net Capitol Journal in Sacramento, a Lexis-Nexis publication, for which he writes a monthly “Cannon Perspective” column. He also writes a weekly column, “Short Takes,” for the acclaimed website RealClearPolitics. Cannon lectures on the presidency, the media, California politics, and police issues and has written for Smithsonian magazine, National Review, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other publications and websites.  Cannon’s noteworthy books include Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD, published in 1998 by Times Books.

Maureen Murdock –
Intermediate Memoir

Making Meaning From Your Memories: An Intermediate Memoir Workshop

This intensive six-day workshop will focus on the particularities of memoir as an art form with all of the challenges autobiographically based work brings. It is not the factual truth of our memories that is necessary for crafting them into memoir but the emotional truth of our experience that begins to reveal the underlying patterns of our lives. Memoir, like fiction, has to deliver vivid characters, descriptive scenes and strong dialogue. We will focus on scene development, narrative voice, dialogue, and the meaning the author makes out of the events in her life. The workshop is aimed at helping you work toward realizing the underlying themes and structural organization inherent in your work. There will be in-class exercises and reading of excerpts by published memoirists. Come prepared to edit and critique your work

Diana Raab –
The Essentials of
Memoir Writing

This crash course is geared toward those who are contemplating writing a memoir or are in the early stages of writing a memoir. We will explore what a memoir is and is not, the key elements of memoir writing including finding focus, crafting a good beginning, finding your voice, organizational structure, and the use of memory and imagination. In creating a story, the writer needs to use fiction techniques such as scene and setting, character development, point of view, and the use of reflection. Participants are encouraged to keep a notebook to document their creative journey. The workshop will be a blend of discussion, reading, critiques and writing exercises, depending upon the participants’ needs. Students are encouraged to share their work for peer review, although this is not mandatory. If you would like your piece worked on, please bring 10 copies. The workshop leader should receive a copy at least one day prior to your assigned day. We will help you bring your story to life. (Maximum 10 pages)

Maria Streshinsky –
Long-form Nonfiction

Writing long-form nonfiction that makes an impact can be one of the most challenging forms of writing today: you have to be a good reporter and researcher, a good craftsman, and a good structuralist. This seminar will take you through the steps that it takes to get long-form nonfiction published by major magazines, from the pitching process to the nuts-and-bolts of crafting of a story. Students should come to class with three well-developed story ideas, or outlines, that clearly states the 1) story subject, 2) arc of the story—where does it start, what does it encompass, and where does it end, and 3) a list of research and interviews author feels are paramount to the piece. For questions, please email Maria at Mstreshinsky[at]